Charlie Wood

Who I Am

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Whereas Charlie Wood's first major release had placed the Memphis keyboardist in a wide variety of settings, Who I Am narrowed the focus to a purer cool jazz style. It wasn't just the arrangements, which became less about blues groove and more about improvisational flash; it was also the way Wood's original songs were so strongly influenced by the material of his early hero, Mose Allison. Nearly every tune crackles with lyrical wit and irony, and his philosophical, introspective musings on human nature recall Allison at his most bitingly honest. Wood stares into the abyss of existential isolation on the dirge-like "You Are Not Among Friends," lays the millennium to rest on the clever piano tune "20th Century," and touts the certainty of settling for second best on the Latin-leaning "Not Quite What I Had in Mind." In the wrong hands, this could be heavy stuff, to be sure, but Wood's tone -- like Allison's -- is one of distanced observation, and his wry humor on "Don't You Ever Stop Talking" and "Back When I Was Stupid" helps balance the mood. All that's not to suggest Wood is a mere Allison clone; he comes across as having a musical personality all his own, and Who I Am is as fine a showcase for it as the more immediate but less focused Southbound.

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